As reported in Bakersfield Californian www.bakersfield.com
CALIFORNIA CITY � Three months after installing its first guards, the private prison here has accepted its first group of inmates, ending months of speculation about who would occupy its beds.
Sixteen federal inmates from the U.S. Marshal district in Los Angeles were transferred to the California City Correctional Center on Wednesday, said Corrections Corp. of America West Coast President David Myers. More are expected in the weeks and months to come.
The Nashville-based company is one of the world's largest private prison companies and has spent more than $100 million to build the 2,304-bed prison in California City.
The company expected the state Department of Corrections to grab at the chance to send some of its inmate overflow to the prison, which was built on speculation and overlooks this high desert town with a population of almost 9,000.
Instead, the state has taken steps to block the prison from accepting state prisoners. The company has turned to county and federal governments for possible contracts.
Myers said the Federal Bureau of Prisons is considering a proposal from CCA to house some of its inmates here.
The bureau is looking for 7,500 beds, and if it accepts CCA's proposal, it could decide to use all 2,304 beds. A decision is expected sometime in 2000, said Myers.
Myers said the marshal's office is aware it may need to move its inmates if the Federal Bureau of Prisons accepts the company's bid.
As part of its bid proposal to the bureau, CCA is adding 10,000 square feet of administrative space to the California City prison, which would provide office and courtroom space.
All of this is good news for Mayor Larry Adams, who has said the prison will bring much-needed jobs to the city, where unemployment is about 12.5 percent. But he's unhappy about how long the process took.
"I'm disappointed in some of our legislators who are at the beck and call of the prison union. I expected the state to bend over backwards and reach out to this prison. Perhaps I was naive and didn't realize how much money affects decision-making," Adams said.
California City Correctional Center Warden Dan Vasquez said the 16 inmates are just the beginning. Already he's taking another look at the 2,800 applications he's received, preparing to add to the current staff of about 95.
"I want to make sure we're not overlooking local talent," said Vasquez.